Old 06-03-2011, 08:20 AM
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martygregwah martygregwah is offline
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Default What's Holding Disc Golf Back

This is the latest post to my blog. Visit it any time at martygregoire.blogspot.com.

If you are an avid disc golfer, you have likely played hundreds of rounds, both recreational and competitive. If you have competed in multiple PDGA sanctioned events, you probably have at some point or another found yourself wondering how this sport could be improved, or how it could be pushed further into the mainstream. 30 or 40 players at a C-tier is great, but why not 100?

What can be done to make this great sport more appealing to the masses, and more importantly, to the potential big name sponsors that could get behind it? No disrespect to companies like Innova, Discraft, DGA, Gateway, etc. But imagine the potential interest generated for the sport if Adidas,Nike, or Ping put their name on some merch. Seriously, have you seen some of the sports that make the Olympics? It's ridiculous. Why not us?

Some would say getting big names involved could be bad for the sport. Some people appreciate the small and local culture of disc golf and wouldn't want it to erupt into something that big. I can understand that, but I strongly disagree. I'd give my throwing arm to be able to watch the PDGA World Championships or the USDGC live on ESPN. OK...maybe my left arm.

Some recent activity from my active #discgolf Twitter brethren has spawned a debate, and I thought it'd be cool to get some feedback from as many golfers as possible. There have been a few main issues that have always been controversial in the disc golf world. The first being dress codes at PDGA sanctioned tournaments. If you'd like to see the current dress code, click here.

Currently the dress code is only enforced at PDGA National Tour/Elite Series events and Majors. The dress code for any event lower than that is enforced by the TD to whatever standards he/she pleases. Should all sanctioned events have a dress code? If so, how strict? Should a C-tier with 35 players be held to the same standards as an A-tier with 180 players? Should all divisions have to meet the same requirements or is it more important to only enforce a dress code for Open players?

The question is interesting and has to be considered in many ways. First off, disc golf is generally a FREE activity outside of the costs of a few discs. This doesn't exactly drive high-income folks to the game. My point is this, and I'm sure you can all agree in some way. Many of the disc golfers I know play the sport because it is fun and cheap, and would not want to fork out $25 for a Polo or Dri-Fit shirt on top of the fees they already pay to compete in the tournaments. Hell, a good majority of the disc golfers I know are currently unemployed. Extra income for collared shirts for disc golf seems like an almost backwards concept.

If we want to move the sport forward though, there is no question that we need to clean up our act. The big name pros do need to look nice, like professionals, like they take the sport seriously. And most of them do. Thanks to great companies like Dynamic Discs, LSDiscs, and Huck Lab, there are plenty of ways to dress nicely in an affordable way, and still look like a disc golfer.

If I had to guess, I'd say the big name companies are probably looking past the dress code issues and seeing the bigger issues. Disc golf is generally viewed by the uneducated public as a sport for beer drinking, pot smoking, deadbeats. I've played plenty of courses where at first glance this seems to be inherently true. Indianapolis for instance has more courses in the worst part of town than anywhere else. It makes it hard to appear to the public as a nice group of friendly people when your parks are located in the highest crime-rated area of the city. Beer bottles, litter, and cigarette butts spread across the course grounds only strengthens this perception. I know none of the guys I play with are out there throwing beer bottles on the ground, but it does happen, a lot more than it should.

There's never going to be a good way to put a stop to drinking or smoking on the courses during recreational rounds, and I am actually OK with that. I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't PREFER to have a few beers during a rec round on a beautiful day in the park, so long as we keep the trash where it belongs. It's during tournaments where the sport needs to be cleaned up.

Personally, I think cigarette smoking should be banned from all sanctioned tournaments, and I was happy to see that the World Championships have taken that approach this year. Name one sport that you've seen on TV where cigarettes are openly being smoked, especially during the actual play of the sport. Darts? Uhhhh....yeah I can't think of anything else. Is that we want to be compared to? Bar games? Stricter punishments should also be enforced for alcohol during the tournaments and between rounds when in plain view of the public. If you want a beer during the break, trust me I understand, but drink it off site.

Last but not least, there are way too many people playing in sanctioned tournaments that don't know the first thing about the official rules or etiquette. The PDGA now requires Open players to pass a rules test prior to competing in NT and Major events. But why just Open players? I generally play Advanced and I still end up on cards where people don't understand some of the more fundamental rules. Foot-faults, OB rules, Mandos...these should all be required knowledge to play in a sanctioned event. I want to focus on my shot, not explain to you why I brought my disc in 1 meter from the OB line I landed near.

I played in a C-tier a few months ago where someone had their dog with them during the round. Are you ****ing kidding me?! That **** is NOT legal and is absurdly disrespectful and distracting. The TD is to blame. TD's need to start standing up for their tournaments. Be proud of the event you are running and don't take **** from anybody. Rules need to be enforced. OB lines and hazards need to be clearly marked. 10 meter lines should ALWAYS be painted around the baskets if at all possible. My biggest pet peeve is when the TD allows everyone to chit-chat during the player's meeting. Grow a pair of balls and tell everyone to shut their mouth for 10 minutes while you make the important announcements everyone should hear for the tournament. It's the *******s that talk through the player's meeting that never know where the OB lines are or what tee pad they need to be throwing from.

So this ended up being way longer than I expected, but oh well. Use the comments area below to start a fight with me and other readers.


Marty Gregwah
Twitter: @martygregwah
PDGA #28647
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:22 AM
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JSurmann JSurmann is offline
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Welcome to the site Marty.
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:31 AM
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medicinalfunk medicinalfunk is offline
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start playing open
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:44 AM
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welcome to the site, and nice long well written post.

in regards to TD's, it isn't very easy for them to be extremely strict. i do see and understand your point, but TD's put in a ton of work, make little money if any on a tourney and are friends with the people playing in an event. this is a hobby for 99.9% of people that play. the most important thing is to have fun.

eventually the sport will need a better image to get on espn, big sponsors, etc, but i think the sport first needs to get bigger. most people still have no idea what disc golf is. they don't need their perception of it changed, they need to learn the game. disc golf can't become huge until many more people even know what the sport is. eventually the sport should be cleaned up, and tournaments more tightly run.... but at this point it is a hobby, a wonderful hobby between friends trying to relax and enjoy some time away from work playing a wonderful game.

in order for the sport to grow it needs to be done on a grass roots level, installing more courses, having active clubs get more and more members, teaching the games to kids, in high schools, etc.

my .02
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Old 06-03-2011, 08:58 AM
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Nothing is holding disc golf back. Its growing by leaps and bounds. More and more companies getting involved. New courses everywhere. More tourneys with ever bigger purses. People who think the sport is being held back are:
1. way too impatient, or
2. blind to what's going on around them, or
3. both
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:00 AM
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bradharris bradharris is offline
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You pose an interesting question that I'm sure I will be thinking about all day. Unfortunately, I think your answer really misses the point.

Dress code - A lack of dress code is not what holds the sport back. If you're in a B-Tier or lower event, no one's there to watch you anyway, it doesn't matter what you look like.
Rules - Often times the only opportunity for people to become educated in the rules is to actually play in events. Have a little patience and teach them rather than ranting online about them.
Money - Sure, money grows any sport. But it's not rich players we need, it's rich sponsors. But sponsors will only come around when there's an audience, which gets us back to the original question.

I have more thoughts on this subject, but am having trouble articulating them at the moment. Stay tuned...
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:10 AM
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There's just not as much of a spread from chucker level to elite level in disc golf, so the growth is less apparent. The difference between Ken Climo and your beer swilling chucker leaving beer cans right next to trash barrels and all over the course is not as much as the difference between Phil Michalson and your average beer swilling par 3 bolfer.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by superberry View Post
There's just not as much of a spread from chucker level to elite level in disc golf, so the growth is less apparent. The difference between Ken Climo and your beer swilling chucker leaving beer cans right next to trash barrels and all over the course is not as much as the difference between Phil Michalson and your average beer swilling par 3 bolfer.
I wonder if that's just a reflection of our generally all par 3 type courses. KC would beat an average chucker by a lot more strokes on a championship type course with real par 4 and 5 holes than he possibly could on a typical SSA ~50 course.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:12 AM
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Okay, I know it's been covered in 350 other threads but there is at least two major sports where competitors smoke or chew tobacco: the PGA tour and MLB. The TV networks that cover it try their best not to show it but occasionally you will catch a glimpse of a competitor smoking at a PGA event.
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:30 AM
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My first answer to the original question: marketing.

There's no doubt that there has been significant growth at the lower levels of the sport. In New England, we're filling up tournaments nearly every weekend, most without PDGA sanctioning. There is definite grass roots interest in the sport. However, tournaments still don't have that "event" feel to them. There are no spectators aside from a few other disc golfers who maybe didn't manage to get off the waitlist.

Little things can make a big difference. Send press releases to the local papers. One before announcing the tournament and one after with results. Sure, if it gets published it will likely be buried somewhere obscure, but it's better than nothing. How about putting up a banner in the park? A flyer on the bulletin board by tee one doesn't advertise your event to the outside world. The best way to do this would be to have tournaments in conjuction with other major events. Lets say you have a course on a park that is hosting a big holiday festival with cookouts, music, maybe a 5k road race. Have a tournament on the same day and piggy back on the festival's marketing effort. Now you've got an audience in the area, and enough publicity that curious onlookers might stop to check it out.
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